The Chapel of St Lawrence in the grounds of Otterden
Place is, in the view of local historian Arthur Percival who
has provided the following notes, "a wonderfully unspoilt
period-piece". He writes:
"Otterden Church is dedicated to St Lawrence, martyred
in Rome in 258 during the persecutions of the Emperor Valerian.
He is remembered in 227 other pre-Reformation dedications in
England. Several of them were early, like the famous Anglo-Saxon
church at Bradford-on-Avon. So possibly the Otterden site is
one of early Christian observance.
"However the present building is not medieval. It can
only be described as a red-brick box, though of high-quality
craftsmanship. There's no tower and, as Edward Hasted, the late
18th-century historian of Kent, noted, it doesn't look like
a place of worship.
"It was built between 1753 and 1759 at the expense of
the Rev Granville Wheler, who lived at Otterden Place. No-one
knows what form its predecessor took, but probably it was modest
in size. It had just three bells, presumably in some form of
tower. In 1585 only one was left working.
"By the mid-18th century it was probably in very poor
shape, like many other medieval churches at the time, and the
Rev Wheler doubtless hankered after something new and fashionable.
He may well have been the architect, as no other designer has
been credited with the building, and in 1752 he had offered
a design for a new roof for Sittingbourne Parish Church, which
had been badly damaged by fire.
"The austerity of the exterior is not matched within.
You might expect to see plain box-pews: instead there are comfortable
open benches in the Chinese Chippendale taste. You could not,
you dare not, doze off during the sermon. In the shallow chancel
is a marble reredos of the kind with which Jane Austen would
have been so familiar - with the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and
the Ten Commandments incised in elegant gilded lettering. The
font is a 'chaste' white marble bowl on a wrought-iron tripod.
"But the Rev Wheeler was no vandal. The finest treasures
of the medieval church were carefully preserved, some of them
in a shallow annexe on the north side whose floor level is a
lot lower than the rest of the structure and which may represent
a small survival of the older building.
"These treasures are all monuments, and very grand some
of them are, too. A visit to the Church is well worthwhile just
to enjoy them. For lovers of brasses there is a very fine one
in memory of Thomas Seintleger, who died in 1408.
"What impress most because of their scale and splendour
are those to William Lewin (died 1598), John Bunce (died 1611)
and Sir Justinian Lewin (died 1620). Like so many others of
the period, all are in full-blooded Renaissance style, though
it was to be another 50 years before this became generally fashionable
in building design..
"It was William Lewin, a lawyer, who bought Otterden Place
from the explorer Sir Humphrey Gilbert. The monument to his
son Justinian, more naturalistic in its depictions than the
other two, is probably by the famous monument designer Epiphanius
Evesham, whose work can also be seen at nearby Boughton-under-Blean
and Lynsted Churches."
The Chapel Today
Otterden Church was declared redundant some years ago, and
now serves as a private chapel for Otterden Place. However public
worship still takes place there, normally in the form of Evensong
on the first Sunday of each month from April to September. In
addition weddings, baptisms and funerals take place from time
Otterden is part of a combined benefice with Eastling and Stalisfield.
It is within the parish of 'Stalisfield with Otterden', and
the parish church is St Mary's, Stalisfield.
Priest-in-charge: Rev'd Caroline Pinchbeck
The Rectory, Newnham Lane, Eastling ME13 0AS (
Curate: Rev'd Angela Cheeseman (
Readers: Mr Norman Fowler (
and Mr Hugh Perks ( 01795 890603.
Parochial Church Council
Chairman: Rev Caroline Pinchbeck
Secretary: Mrs Jan Beckenham
Treasurer: Dr Steve Ruston
Churchwardens: Mrs Pat Thompson, Martin Beckenham